Vatican City, Sep 17, 2019 / 11:19 am (CNA).- A delegation from the U.S., including Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, will present the conclusions and proceedings of the National V Encuentro of Hispanic and Latino Ministry to Pope Francis Wednesday.
The Encuentro was a September 2018 meeting of around 3,000 Hispanic and Latino Catholics on issues such as the accompaniment of immigrants, access to higher education, lay leadership formation, community outreach, and evangelization.
The four-day meeting was a culmination of four years of consultation and workshops at the parish, diocesan, and regional levels of the Church in the U.S. The theme was “Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of the love of God”.
Archbishop Gomez told CNA that the Encuentro helped “Latinos to understand that they really belong in the United States and they are bringing their gifts to our society.”
“I think it was beautiful to see their participation and the reality that we need them to be leaders in our community,” he said. “They are totally committed to the life, society in the United States and making a contribution to every single aspect of life in the United States and especially the values of the Gospel.”
He added that the Latino community bring with them a commitment to Christian values that are at the foundation of their own countries.
Gomez also urged U.S. Catholics to pray more for the government to reach a solution on comprehensive immigration reform.
The archbishop comes with a delegation of 12 people, including Bishops Nelson Pérez of Cleveland and Arturo Cepeda, an auxiliary bishop of Detroit, who will meet Pope Francis after the Sept. 18 General Audience.
The group has also had meetings with Vatican offices and dicasteries during their visit Sept. 13-18.
Pope Francis sent a video message at the start of the Encuentro last year, and Gomez said, “the first thing” he would like to do is thank the pope “for the assistance he sent and also for his support during this time.”
Gomez, who is vice president of the U.S. bishops’ conference and a Mexico native, said the group will present to Francis a document summarizing what different people experienced at the meeting and practical ways to follow-up the process.
“The Encuentro has been a beautiful process, that’s what we want to share with [Pope Francis] and everybody else,” Gomez said.
“It’s been a beautiful exercise of how to especially get the Latino community involved in the life of the Church. So that’s what we want to share with him.”
Bishop Perez is chairman of the USCCB Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church. He told CNA that some of the fruit of Encuentro has been the “emerging leadership, in so many ways, of the next generation of leaders and pastoral lay leaders in the church in the United States.”
On the parish level, he said, 3,000 parishes and 350,000 Catholics participated in the Encuentro process over the last several years.
He said the emergence of new leadership, especially young adults, was immediately apparent. “That was really promising and very hopeful.”
Junuee Castro, the director of youth and young adult ministry in the Diocese of Salt Lake City, seconded this. She told CNA the diocesan Encuentro meetings were very meaningful for her and that “young people have raised their hands and said yes, I am willing to go forward, I am willing to commit; I definitely want to see them in leadership roles.”
Bishop Perez also noted that 250 U.S. parishes started Spanish pastoral outreach and began holding Spanish Masses as a result of the V Encuentro. He added that they have also seen several dioceses establish and staff offices with new lay leaders.
“The V Encuentro is really in so many ways the implementation of the joy of the Gospel. So the whole process, the spirit, the mysticism of the spirituality revolves all around the joy of the Gospel,” Perez said.
He pointed to Pope Francis’ description, in Evangelii gaudium, of the Church “as a community of missionary disciples that takes initiative, that accompanies, that is engaged, that is fruitful, that is joyful.”
“This is the spirit of the V Encuentro,” he said.
Noting that deportations have taken place in his diocese, Perez said one of the blessings of the V Encuentro was that “it comes at a time of that uncertainty and fear and became, in so many ways, a soothing balm where people would come together and support each other, accompany each other and strengthen each other in a very tumultuous time.”
The delegation meeting with Pope Francis includes lay USCCB staff, members of the National V Encuentro Team, and other delegates with experience in diocesan and parish ministry.
Castro said, “what the Church can do is what the Encuentro process has done for us. They have paused and listened to us.”
“They have listened to us, which is key to anything we want to do as a Church; the mode of listening and accompaniment definitely. Being accompanied and being mentored by those who have been in ministerial roles we need their advice and we are willing to walk with them and them with us.”
Delegates and married couple Mario and Paola Martinez are co-directors of the marriage and family life ministry in the Diocese of San Bernardino. They said they serve a range of people in their work, and it has been critical for them to see way in which mothers and fathers seek help for themselves and their families.
“They have this desire for their families to be healthy, for their families to find this peace and they just want the best for their families. That’s what we see, that passion for family life among our Hispanic community. They have a love for their families and for their traditions and their cultures and you can just feel that in the communities that we serve,” Paola said.
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